Fluctuating producer prices are not the key determinant for banks when assessing farm business plans, according to First Trust bank, which says that volatility will remain a core driver within international commodity markets for some time.

This was the view reflected by First Trust Bank’s Head of Business Banking Brian Gillan at an event held recently to officially launch a £50 million investment fund for farming and food in Northern Ireland.

“A case in point is the fact that milk prices are weakening at the present time,” he said.

“And this is a trend which is impacting on every dairy farming business across the world. This is why we will not hold our client customers to securing a specific milk price, when it comes to discussing the specifics of a future business plan. Rather, we want to find out how individual farmers can deliver for the future in terms of securing higher levels of production efficiency.”

First Trust also confirmed that its new finance package has been specifically ring fenced to support investment in farm/agri-business growth, diversification, modernisation or refurbishment. The bank has also launched a new Agri FoodEnergy Efficiency Loan – specifically targeting farms and agri-businesses who introduce energy efficiency measures such as lighting, solar/PV, wind, biomass and hydro projects into their overall operations.

Commenting on the relevance of the fund Des Moore, Head of First Trust, said that the bank wants to support those progressive farmers and agri-businesses who wish to develop and modernise their operations to take advantage of this massive opportunity.

“We appreciate the important interplay between primary producers and other agri-businesses and have ensured our loan products and services are available to the wider Agri Food market so that all parts of that important equation can benefit. We are also very proud that, having listened to our Agri Food customers, we are able to deliver a specific energy efficiency loan product with them in mind. Already we are seeing some customers reap the benefits of this type of investment, which in turn makes their operations much more efficient.”